by Tennessee Williams

Lyric Theatre
Runs 3hr 5mins Two intervals

TICKETS 020 7494 5045
Review Timothy Ramsden 19 September 2001

Every nuance caught in this strong revival of Williams’ classic story of soul-bearing among the plantation-owning classes.Actors get furious when critics praise a director who they know have contributed nothing to the production. This can’t be the case with Anthony Page’s fine Tennessee Williams revival, beautifully designed and lit by Maria Bjornson and Howard Harrison. For three claustrophobic hours the play’s spirit breathes through beautifully orchestrated pacing and emotional waves as anger, bitterness, frustration and hope cascade and clash.

Yet none of it is overt director’s theatre; in a play focusing on truth and mendacity, each detail is tightly clamped on the script. The result is a family portrait of unusual intensity. As a cat Frances O’ Connor’s Maggie is more hiss than purr, claws than fur. Though some lines early go for little the character builds slow and solid till her final lie about being pregnant sounds out with clarion dignity.

Maggie makes it to the title but the play centres on her husband, Brick. After his long battle with her, he slugs it out even longer in act two with his father, Big Daddy. Brendan Fraser’s Brick builds a character out of not stringing two words together. His escape into alcohol is accompanied by silence, snarls and mumbles; he’s forever isolating himself and avoiding eye-contact.

Gemma Jones is excellent as Big Mama, sheathed in her ghostly dress, trying on old world grace against her husband’s contempt. Good work from Abigail McKern’s repulsively smiling Mae and Clive Carter’s Gooper, her husband, trying to be decently selfish.

Then there’s Ned Beatty’s magnificent, prowling Big Daddy, shambling but shrewd, relaxed but confident till near the end. Shutting everyone else up with a word, his vulnerability shows as his outpourings to Brick meets his favourite son’s stonewall.

Gooper and Mae’s monster kiddies could fill you with despair for the future, but this production gives hope for the West End.

Margaret: Frances O’ Connor
Brick: Brendan Fraser
Mae: Abigail McKern
Big Mama: Gemma Jones
Big Daddy: Ned Beatty
Reverend Tooker: David Firth
Gooper: Clive Carter
Doctor Baugh: Kenneth Jay
Lacey: Ilario Bisi-Pedro
A Servant: Valentine Hanson

Mae & Gooper’s Children: Samantha Bingley, Louiza Murphy, Ryan de Freitas/Louise Adams, Georgina Mudd, Alexander McLintock

Director: Anthony Page
Designer: Maria Bjornson
Lighting: Howard Harrison
Composer: Neil McArthur
Fight director: Malcolm Ransom

2001-09-23 12:23:35

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